Monday, November 07, 2022

High court reporters

A €2 million court award to a couple who claimed they were exposed to toxic chemicals after spray foam insulation was installed in their home has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The injuries suffered by Patrick and Anita Duffy were very serious and life changing, the three judge court ruled and said the description of Mr Duffy’s injuries as “catastrophic” was not necessarily unfair in the circumstances of the case.

“There is perhaps no more fundamental requirement for living than the ability to breathe normally and in this case that has been severely compromised so that there is virtually no aspect of their lives that are untouched by their injuries.” Mr Justice Seamus Noonan who gave the judgement of the court said.

Dismissing the appeal by the insulation installer the Court of Appeal affirmed the €2 million award handed down by the High Court two years ago to Patrick and Anita Duffy of Donegal.

The Duffys of Meenderryowern , Annagry, Co Donegal had sued Brendan McGee trading as McGee Insulation Services, Largenreach, Downings, Letterkenny, Co Donegal who was responsible for the installation and the application of spray foam insulation at the family home on February 18th, 2016.

They claimed they were exposed to fumes and toxic chemicals and they and their young daughter had to leave the dream home they had built near the sea in Donegal because they did not feel safe there.

Beyond any doubt

In the High Court Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he had come to the conclusion beyond any doubt whatsoever that Patrick and Anita Duffy sustained “their life altering serious injuries as a result of exposure to chemicals.”

The probable cause the judge further found was the foam that had been injected into the roof.

The injuries to the Duffys the judge found were caused beyond a reasonable doubt by the exposure to the product as sprayed by the insulation installers.

On the balance of probabilities the judge found that due to the nature and extent of the Duffys’ injuries it was due to exposure to Isocyanate.

The judge found the insulation foam product itself is “essentially safe” if properly applied with the proper safeguards.

But he found the installer was negligent in failing to advise the Duffys they were required to be out of the house during the spraying and for at least two hours afterwards and in failing to communicate with them the potential risks and hazards involved in the product if the safeguards were not adhered to.

Mr McGee had appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal.

In the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Noonan sitting with Mr Justice Maurice Collins and Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he was quite satisfied that the High Court judge correctly concluded that Mr McGee was negligent and that his negligence caused the Duffys’ injuries.

“Mr McGee’s absolute failure to take reasonable or indeed any care for the health and safety of the Duffys inexorably follows from the judge’s un-appealed findings of fact as night follows day,” Mr Justice Noonan said.

The judge did accept the figure awarded in the case by the High Court was “on the high side” and more than the Court of Appeal might have been inclined to give, but it was not “so disproportionate” that it could be fairly described as amounting to an error of law.

Mr Justice Binchy and Mr Justice Collins agreed with the judgment.

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